Who Needs Roads?
Have you ever felt the need to bowl your way through thick gobs of mud in a beastly rig while towing heavy loads of logs? Well, in Spintires: MudRunner, that’s exactly what you can expect to accomplish. The only thing is, the truck driving simulation throws a flurry of tedious obstacles in the way of the otherwise simple task at hand, in turn creating a surprisingly fun but cautiously slow-paced ride through swamps and off-road pathways.
Check out our video review of Spintires:MudRunner below:
MudRunner offers a new experience to fans of the automotive genre. Instead of appeasing to the speed freaks by creating some sort of spin-off racing title, Spintires places players into the driver’s seat of a rig conductor carefully navigating the often treacherous terrain featured in MudRunner. Players fight against the elements, fuel consumption and damage to complete their ordinary task as a log loader. However, sprinkling in a few additions to keep gameplay interesting helps allow the game from growing too stale, too quickly.
Rig drivers are first introduced to a series of tasks set forth in simple yet instructive objectives that run you through the basics of the game. Players can set up their rig with a variety of trailers, various drive-train mechanics like all-wheel drive or differential lock, manual shifting for the tough uphill climbs and the incredibly useful wench system that allows players to pull themselves (or other trucks) out of hairy situations. All of these features, and more, tie-in to the gameplay creating a constantly pushing experience through menial trucking tasks.
The gameplay is direct to the point at first, but understanding the groundwork to “mud running” takes a bit of getting used to. The controls are setup similar to other driving games, offering the very basics of throttle control, brakes and a variety of handy driving mechanics to accomplish objectives that lie in your path. Between the list of challenges, the single player missions through a modest selection of maps and engaging multiplayer mode, MudRunner has plenty to offer the player, even if it is a lot of the same.
When hopping into the single player campaign players must deliver a specific amount of logs to each lumber mill location on the selected map. Choosing your log carrier and trailer, pulling off the parking brake and shifting into gear gets the show on the road and the mud begins to fly. The controls in MudRunner are a bit finicky to adapt to at first. Trudging through the mud and keeping your truck from toppling or jack-knifing your trailer can become irritating problems if you’re not careful. Luckily, you won’t spend too much time clocking in an average speed that crosses the 25 MPH mark, making for an extremely enduring experience.
A True Trucking Simulation Experience
The slow pace and trudging gameplay isn’t the only obstacle the game throw at you. The maps, depending on the region, are littered with swampy roads, river cross-ways, dense forests and, of course, plenty of muddy passages to keep your senses constantly in check. The day night cycle also keeps things interesting for when those long sessions remind you of your limited sight during the dark night-time hours. Players must use patience and skill to carefully maneuver through the slippery slopes and cluttered pathway as they make their way across uncharted territory with very little help from the game’s particularly vague map.
Each map in MudRunner offers different regions to explore and traverse, though, most will throw the same adverse conditions in the way of the driver. Players must navigate around these sludgy regions with limited help form the map in the menu screen. The idea of the map isn’t to hold your hand, but rather you give you an actual objective other than “deliver logs”. The map shows players where each lumber mill and log station is, as well as fuel stations, garages, other trucks the player can switch to and, most importantly, the roadways you should follow in order to keep yourself from getting stuck in the mud.
While you’re able to place a helpful waypoint on the map during the casual sessions, MudRunner does not feature the on-screen GPS found in almost every other automotive game today. Part of the challenge in MudRunner is navigating your rig and trailer through the slippery terrain and using your knowledge of the map to get you where you need to be. There’s also a good portion of the map — and in some cases, the entire map — that isn’t revealed to the player until they reach a designated waypoint. This makes the careful tread through the mud a much more invigorating experience without the advanced knowledge of understanding the region’s layout.
With a fine understanding of the controls and the map layout, players are ready to hit the road to complete their logging duties. Selecting a shorter trailer for short logs will make the drive through the rough terrain much easier, but will require more trips between the station and the mill (and most likely the fuel station, too). Larger trailer and rigs are much more difficult to navigate and the size can make it difficult to find shorter routes from point A to point B.
While keeping a steady hand on the wheel when directing your massive machine, players also must keep close watch on other aspect of the vehicle. Fuel consumption will occur consistently depending on the truck you’re driving and picks up when players engage features like all wheel drive. Players can also easily damage their rigs when driving too carelessly through rough terrain, resulting in stall-outs or un-driveable vehicles.
Luckily, MudRunner features a variety of unlockable vehicles placed on each map which allows players to switch control and offer assistance to any helpless trucks. fuel trucks carry a large tanker and can either refuel drained trucks or act as useful fueling locations when the stations are too much of a trek. Repair trucks can fix damaged vehicles hindered by overly aggressive driving, allowing players to continue their job after a slight bump in progress.
If players are looking for a much more rewarding challenge, the casual setting may be switched over to hardcore. The tougher difficulty setting ‘Hardcore’ will increase the needed awareness level as trucks can now be damaged by improperly engaging the differential lock , the differential lock can only be engaged when using the manual shifting option, damaged trucks now affect driving and players can only load logs onto their trailer by manual loading. The hardcore option is the true trucking simulation experience, but can retain some of the most satisfying moments in the game.
Care For A Challenge?
Along with the single player campaign players can also partake in a variety of challenges. The various challenges help outline the many different features offered in the game and allow different circumstances than what you would find in the campaign. Each challenge also comes with a set of three side objectives to net you more points once the challenge has been achieved. More points unlock more maps and challenges, as well as new trucks unlocked during the campaign mode.
The challenges offer a much more diverse experience than the log loading campaign mode. Climbing a steep hill when navigating a powerful jeep or finding and towing a broken down trailer presents its own set of obstacles, and manages to keep the game from repeating the same process over and over. Most challenges showcase a new tactic or skill used to master the art of big rig mudding, but perhaps the most important tactic is the use of the game’s handy wench system.
When sludging your way through murky waters and deep mud paths players will often find themselves stuck. The heavy trucks sink and tires spin as your truck will often find its way lodged in the elemental hazards. Every truck in MudRunner, however, features a wenching system which can help pull trucks out of tough situations. Nearby trees, buildings and other vehicles act as latching points, and mashing the throttle simultaneously with the wench pulley can net some pretty satisfying results.
What also makes the wench useful is not only the ability to pull your own truck out of deep waters, but using other trucks to tow your designated rig out of tough to reach areas. And while the wench system seems like an easy ‘get out of jail free card’, not every attachable object will support the weight of your truck. Planning your expedition and mapping out your route is an important strategy in ensuring you won’t need a tow during the mission.
Spintires: MudRunner offers a unique look at the trials of hauling heavy loads through unsettling terrain. The slow grind of navigating through off-road conditions provides a cautiously paced experience that’s fit for players looking to sink in hours of careful and strategic driving.
The combination of skill, strategy, patience and planning works very well in Spintires: MudRunner, only derailing itself with the occasional hiccup in gameplay. The visuals and sound design are near-perfect examples of realism in video games. While the controls can often be sluggish or unresponsive, that’s, more or less, part of the tedious gameplay. While there’s not much diversity in terms of challenging obstacles or mission variation, what is there is a gritty, down and dirty experience not typically found in the realm automotive gaming.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.